Mas'alatan Muhimmatan
'Burnt Out'-an:
Socks and Beards

By Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim, al-hamdulillah wa-l-salat wa-l-salam 'ala Rasulillah.

In reply to the following two questions, the following is my answer:

“I wanted to ask you two quick questions.

1. Some modern scholars such as Taqi Othmani and Sheikh 'Abd al-Wakil al-Durubi (via Sheikh Nuh in The Reliance) state that there is consensus (ijma') that one of the conditions for khuff or whatever takes its place is that it be waterproof. Yet in Minhaj al-Talibin there is a statement that the asahh is that water not penetrate it. Doesn't the existence of such a phrase in such a book negate these claims to ijma'? The mufta bihi of the Hanabila--and not just Ibn Taymiyya--is that being water proof is not a condition, although there is a condition that it be thick enough that it is impossible to discern the underlying hair and skin.

2. Some people have quoted from Habib 'Ali (he was just here on his first ever trip to Syria) that according to the Shafi'is, the beard is only that which grows on the chin so [? to be deleted I think] and so there is no karaha in shaving everything else. My sheikh for Shafi'i fiqh does not agree with this, and he said that several of the Yemeni Shafi'is that he has met disagree with what is being quoted from Habib 'Ali. One of the proofs for this is something that Imam al-Nawawi quotes from Imam al-Ghazali in Al-Ihya, quoted from Qut al-Qutulub [al-Qulub; by Abu Talib al-Makki] regarding several things that are disliked with the beard. They include taking too much or leaving too much, which is explained to mean shaving the head and taking too much of the beard with it or leaving too much of the beard. These two scenarios can only be understood if the sideburns ('aridan) are included as part of the beard.

You're probably as burned out on beard question as I am on sock questions.”

I. As for the socks:

There is no consensus or Ijma' among the fuqaha' of the Muslims that one of the conditions for khuff [wiping footgear as a substitute to washing the feet during wudu'] is that it be waterproof [mani'an min nufudh al-ma']. On the other hand, there is khilaf among the four schools whether the khuff should be waterproof. It is a well known fact that our school (the Shafi'is) and the Hanafis specify that waterproof be a valid condition [shart sah] for khuff, and as you are already rightly aware, the Hanbalis (and the Malikis too) do not specify this condition. In fact, Dr. Wahbah al-Zuhayli, in his modern classic work on 'ilm khilaf, the Fiqh al-Islam wa-Adillatuh, when discussing the conditions for khuff, divides his discussion into:

(a) those conditions which are agreed upon by all fuqaha' (and there are only three: (1) that one has Wudu' when one first puts them on (i.e., kamal al-tahara), (2) that they are free from impurities [Najasa] and cover the whole foot that needs to be washed during Wudu' (i.e., tahir and satir), (3) that one can use it to continue walking around as usual (i.e., mutaba'a al-mashy)), and

(b) those conditions not agreed upon by the jurists, and he lists the Shafi'is and Hanafis pre-condition of waterproof as belonging to the latter. [al-Zuhayli, Fiqh al-Islam, 1:486]. (It should be noted here, however, that al-Zuhayli's work is not to be relied upon as a work of fiqh, despite its title, because, as any serious students of fiqh should know, a work on 'ilm khilaf [comparative fiqh], not 'ilm fiqh, should not be relied upon to get the qawl mu'tamad [reliable position] of any school. Instead, works on 'ilm khilaf (past classics such as the Maliki Ibn Rushd's Bidaya al-Mujtahid, or our own, the Shafi'i al-Qaffal's Hulya al-'Ulama') are useful consolidated reference tools; they are almost always used by scholars of a particular fiqh to find the positions of the other schools, and should not be used by the 'awwam such as what is prevalent today.)

In fact, the legal basis ['illa] behind the Shafi'is stipulating a condition for waterproof, is that, it is an extension of the third condition (mutaba'a al-mashy), that it be durable enough to keep walking around as travellers, as the Fath al-Qarib makes clear: "It can be understood from the author's statement [i.e., the third condition for wiping the khuff, stipulated by Qadi Abu Shuja', that is, mutaba'a al-mashy] that they [i.e., the footgear] must be strong so as to prevent water from penetrating [the foot]" [al-Bajuri, Hashiya, 1:84].

I do not know how and where to verify Mufti Taqi Usmani's statement (if he really said that the waterproof pre-condition is "Ijma'" (note however that scholars of Usul do differentiate between Ijma', Ittifaq and Jumhur; so maybe what he meant was Jumhur or Ittifaq, but not Ijma', if not), then he is off the mark), but I have verified Shaykh al-Durubi's statement in his Commentary to Ibn Naqib's 'Umdat al-Salik, the Reliance of Traveller, which is in English, and it does not amount to your statement, "that there is consensus (ijma') that one of the conditions for khuff or whatever takes its place is that it be waterproof." Instead, what Shaykh al-Durubi is suggesting there, by agreement [Ittifaq] of all four schools (which is not necessarily Ijma'), is that 'modern dress socks' are not valid substitutes for khuff: "al-Durubi: not modern dress socks (Shaykh Nuh Keller: due to non-[waterproof] and [non-durable] above), which are not valid to wipe in any school, even if many are worn in layers." [Ibn Naqib, Reliance, 69 (e6.4)]. For this statement by Shaykh al-Durubi is sound, since 'modern dress socks' are according to him not valid according to the Hanbali school (for he understood that the 'modern dress socks' [jawarib haditha] do not meet the condition of 'mutaba'a al-mashy'; however it has to be pointed out here that the Hanbalis do hold the most lenient position in this issue and perhaps unique, for al-Zuhayli for instance, related that Shaykh Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi, a contemporary Hanbali jurist, allowing 'modern dress socks' even when they are not thick [al-Zuhayli, Fiqh al-Islam, 1:483, n. 2]; it could be that there is further khilaf among the Hanbalis and it would be best, for us, at this point, to defer this issue with Hanbali specialists: remembering of course, that if al-Durubi's statement turns out to be inaccurate (if indeed, by the methods and rules of the Hanbali school and confirmed by their living authorities that their Mufta Bi-hi position is to allow jawarib haditha, then), he can immediately be overlooked since he was a Shafi'i scholar, not a Hanbali) and the Maliki school (for it not being a leather), and obviously not valid according to the Shafi'is and Hanafis (as Shaykh Nuh makes clear, for it not being waterproof). If we remove the qualification found in-between the brackets, then I am sure that it will be clear to us that Shaykh al-Durubi did not mean to say the condition of being waterproof is agreed by general consensus of the Muslims [Ijma' al-Nas].

What is usually said of Ijma' concerning the khuff, by scholars of Ahl Sunna wa-l-Jama'a, is the permissibility [Mubah] of wiping the khuff as a substitute for washing the feet during wudu' (and according to the Shafi'is, this is a Rukhsa or dispensation, and to wash the feet is better and afdal (as long as one does not doubt its permissibility or wishing thereby to go against the Example or Sunna of our blessed Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace!); al-Bajuri, Hashiya, 1:83), since the Ahadith that has come down to us regarding wiping the khuff are Mutawatir (stronger than Sahih), and, as is related by Imam Ibn Hajar, some Hanafis even go as far as to say, those that deny wiping the khuff, are feared to be unbelievers. [Ibn Hajar, Tuhfa, 1:397]. That explains why the great Maturidi theologian and Hanafi jurist, Imam al-Nasafi, mentions in his 'Aqida (to distinguish from the Shi'is and the Khawarij):

"wa-narA l-masHa 'alA l-khufayni fI s-safari wa-l-HaDari" [we approve [i.e., we believe in] the wiping of [one's] footgear [both when] on a journey and at [one's] home]. [Majmu'a al-Hawashi al-Nasafiyya, 1:202].

So the Ijma', as recorded by the Imam al-Mujtahid, Ibn al-Mundhir, in his well-known Kitab al-Ijma', is the permissibility of wiping the khuff, not its detail that it be waterproof [Ibn al-Mundhir, al-Ijma', 34 (no. 14)].

The statement of Imam al-Nawawi in the Minhaj ("a fabric [mansuj] that does not prevent water will not suffice, according to the More Correct Position [Qawl Asahh]"; Tuhfa, 1:411) is already a clear indication that there is khilaf in our school concerning the discussion of 'waterproof', and it certainly cannot be Ijma' as understood by Usuli scholars. Both teacher and student, Imams al-Haramayn al-Juwayni and al-Ghazali, do not make it a condition that the khuff be waterproof, and moreover, in the Majmu', Imam al-Nawawi relates that this is also the early position [Qawl Qadim] of our Imam al-Mujtahid, al-Shafi'i (may Allah be pleased with him!). [al-Nawawi, al-Majmu', 1:569; cf. idem, Rawda, 1:160]. Despite the khilaf, the final and practiced position of the Shafi'iyya is that the material of the khuff must be 'strong enough' so as to be waterproof (and even if water reaches the foot through the Mahall al-Kharaz, the holes of stitches, it is sufficient).

II. As for the beard:

Any Shafi'i fiqh students, who have studied the Fath al-Qarib, Fath al-Mu'in and Fath al-Wahhab (the 3 most important manuals that are usually taught in a systematic Shafi'i curriculum and school) should know the definition of a beard [lihya; not with a fatha, since 'lahya' are the jawbones and is one of the technical terms used when defining the areas of al-fard, namely that which is included in the washing of the face during the wudu']. The lihya is: "that which grows on the chin" [a famous phrase from the Fath al-Mu'in: wa-lihyatin wa-hiya ma nabata 'ala al-dhaqani; I'anat al-Talibin, 1:50]. Indeed, according to the well-established technical vocabulary of our school, the lateral hairs ['aridan] are not considered to be part of the lihya (as the matn of the Fath al-Mu'in, for example, continues to make it unequivocally clear such as when it goes on to define the sideburn or 'arid, anew, and being clearly different from the definition of the beard or lihya above: "the 'arid [whiskers at the side of the face, or for lack of a better term, "lateral hair" or "side hair" of the face which will include "jaw hair" (and including, of course, any "cheek hair" - if it grows genetically that high) or I suppose, another English term maybe sideburns - if this term can accommodate all of these facial hair] is that [of the facial hair] which goes down to [meet] the beard." [Ibid.]). The only thing in common between the lateral hairs and the beard in our school, is that the lateral hairs are treated like the beard in their hukm of washing the face during wudu': if it is khafifa [thin], then, its inner and outer hair and skin beneath must be washed; if it is kathifa [thick], then, it is only obligatory to wash the outer hair but only Sunna or recommended to do takhlil [to comb it with one's wet fingers].

Given that the Qawl Sahih [Sound Position] of Imam al-Nawawi (al-Nawawi, al-Majmu', 1:357-358) which is also the Qawl Mu'tamad [Relied Upon Position] in our school (I'anat, 2:386; this, despite when the author of the Fath al-Mu'in followed the weaker opinion, Sayyid al-Bakri immediately makes known the well-accepted position), that shaving the lihya is only Makruh, and not Haram, the statement made by Habib 'Ali of Dar al-Mustafa, Tarim, is completely justified and free from any blame. Indeed, there is no karaha or dislikedness in shaving the lateral hairs or anything else that is not included to be part of the lihya, defined by our jurists. There is no where more clearer than what can be found in the Fatwa of Imam al-Ramli, one of the principal late figures of the Shafi'i school:

"Question: Is it Haram to shave and trim the [hair of the] chin [dhaqan; i.e., what is meant here is of course, the 'hair of the chin,' that is to say, the beard; notice that Imam al-Ramli purposely used the phrase, 'dhaqan' in the question (and not 'lihya') but used 'lihya' in his answer--this is to prevent any ambiguity arising from what is meant by the word 'beard']? Answer: To shave and trim the beard [lihya] of a man is Makruh, and not Haram. Whereas the statement of [Qadi] al-Halimi [a predecessor of Imam al-Ghazali, a Shafi'i Qadi and Muhaddith in Bukhara; d. 403 H/1012] in his Minhaj [fi Shu'ab al-Iman, (note, not a work of fiqh) that] 'it is not permissible for anyone to shave off his beard and eyebrows', is a Weak Position [Dai'f]." [al-Ramli, Fatawa, 4:69].

The text of the Ihya' (which is not a fiqh work, but a work on adab and tasawwuf, that usually presents rulings stricter than the official Shafi'i positions - for reasons following the way of Wara' and scrupulousness out of piety, taking the way of caution and leaving the rukhsa and dispensations), in this case, does not, in the end, depart from the minimum legal position that shaving the beard is Makruh. In fact, al-Ghazali, caused a stir amongst our jurists when he presented a more lenient ruling such as when he said that it is permissible [Mubah; in that, it is not Makruh] to trim the beard for the sake of 'keeping up appearances' (while the position of our school is still, shaving or trimming the beard in any way, is Makruh):

"The directive here [of Ibn 'Umar and a group of the Tabi'in, which al-Sha'bi and Ibn Sirin consider good [meaning Mandub or recommended], that there is no harm in a man grasping his beard with his hand, and whatever exceeds that, he cuts] is more accurate [qarib; as opposed to the opinions of al-Hasan al-Basri and Qatada (may Allah be pleased with all of them, notwithstanding their khilaf!) (which is the position of the Shafi'is) that it is unconditionally Makruh to trim the beard, even if it is longer or lesser than what some say to be the minimum, that is, a 'handful'] if* it does not lead to cutting off the beard [completely] and rounding it off the sides [i.e., a clean-shaven face]. Because [read "fa'-ta'lil" here because of "inna"] [the resulting] excessive length may make the appearance ugly, and may incite backbiters with ridiculing him, then, there is no harm [if the beard is trimmed] in accordance with this intention, [that is] to guard against (the excessive length that may make the appearance ugly). [al-Ghazali, Ihya', 1:168].

* "if" is understood as "when at the same time," because the conditional particle, "in-shartiyya" is read like "idh-zarfiyya" or "idha" here.

For this reason, al-Nawawi (in the Majmu', above) and Ibn Hajar, immediately corrected al-Ghazali and reaffirmed the well-accepted Shafi'iyya position, that is, to remove the beard in any way, even if a little, is Makruh. That is why Ibn Hajar says in the Tuhfa: "Whereas the claim [i.e., made by al-Ghazali], then, that 'it makes the appearance ugly' [and therefore it is not Makruh to trim the beard for this reason] is rejected [mamnu']. On the contrary, what is ugly [mushawwah] is to abandon its maintenance by [not] washing and oiling." [Ibn Hajar, Tuhfa, 12:303].

Given that the Shafi'i school has the most lenient fiqhi position regarding the beard (in that it is not Haram to shave it off, even completely (but like leaving the khuff, above, it becomes Haram when one does this, intending to go against the Prophetic Example or thinking that the sunna of the non-Muslims is superior to ours), unlike the Hanafis, for instance, that to trim the beard when it is less than the minimum is Haram), our Imams stress the 'unconditional' nature of the dislikedness in trimming the beard; and because of the absolute Makruh, our school does not strictly set a minimum limit for the beard. This explains why scholars like al-Nawawi and Ibn Hajar, consider the opinions of those setting a minimum limit for the beard (such as al-Ghazali and later on, the Mufti of Zabid, al-Ashkhar (d. 903 H/1497), who followed one of Imam al-Adhra'i's conflicting opinions, set the minimum limit of the beard to be the throat or the 'handful', which basically means that what grows beyond the 'handful' or the 'minimum limit', so to speak, is no longer considered Makruh to cut off [Ba 'Alawi, Bughya al-Mustarshidin, 20]) to be even more lenient than what is already a lenient position vis-a-vis the four schools of fiqh. That is why the position of the school remains that it is unconditionally Makruh to trim or shave the beard in any way.

As from your statement, "They include taking too much or leaving too much, which is explained to mean shaving the head [? - this explanation, I'm sure, is not what was meant] and taking too much of the beard with it or leaving too much of the beard. These two scenarios can only be understood if the sideburns ('aridan) are included as part of the beard," the explanation and the inference made that the beard includes other than that which grows on the chin, is, I am afraid, wrong (mamnu'; for reasons that will be made clear below, but most important of all is, what is found in the Ihya' is not a hukm fiqhi or legal judgement). Al-Ghazali goes on to say (this is the point where Imam al-Ghazali begins to selectively borrow from the Qut al-Qulub of Abu Talib al-Makki):

"Al-Nakha'i (may Allah be pleased with him!) said: "I am amazed at why a reasonable man whose beard is long does not cut it off, and make it 'between two beards' [i.e., a majaz or figurative expression to mean 'a beard that is not too long and not too short'], for moderation is good in everything." For this reason, it is said: "The longer the beard, the smaller the mind."" [Ihya', 1:168; cf. al-Makki, Qut, 3:361].

The 'taking too much or leaving too much' from the beard or more appropriately, the 'avoiding its being too long and its being too short' scenario appears only in this metaphor of al-Nakha'i, still, not, as you thought, in the Qut al-Qulub part VIA al-Ghazali's Ihya', which discusses the ten Makruh (note, still not Haram) practices relating to the beard. Instead, what appears in that latter part, contradicts the 'avoiding its being too long and its being too short scenario', since there, al-Ghazali was actually saying: to exceed (ziyada) the beard (and no mention of naqs or reduction here, in spite what was originally written by al-Makki) beyond 'its limit' is what is in fact Makruh (and incidentally, there is already mention of lateral hairs here):

"The seventh [practice that is Makruh concerning the beard] is: allowing it to exceed [ziyada; notice al-Ghazali kept the verb 'zada yazidu ziyadatan', and did not replace it with tawfir (to let grow) or i'fa (to keep or leave it alone), while ziyada has also the meaning of to add or make addition of something to something else]. That is to say, to exceed the lateral hairs [growing out] of the temples [in fiqh, this is technically known as the 'idhar], namely, [that it grows] from the hair of the head until it goes beyond the jawbones and reaching ultimately to halfway down the cheeks. This [to allow the 'excesses' of the 'beard'], is inconsistent with the state of the people of righteousness [i.e., the Pious Predecessors or the Salaf]." [Ihya', 1:170]. (This circumstance can be seen clearest when the head is shaved and if that person is genetically able to grow the lateral hairs and the 'idhar; in the published version of this answer, there will be an illustration, insha' Allah!)

It should be mentioned here (without, I hope, making it complicated, or 'surprising'), that al-Ghazali had, in fact, edited the original words of Abu Talib al-Makki. Al-Makki, for example, originally mentions that among the disliked practices relating to the beard, is to exceed it and to be deficient of it (in other words, defining the maximum and what is less than the minimum limits of the beard, according to al-Makki (whose tariqa in fiqh was not Shafi'i, but Hanafi):

"Among this [from the 12 Makruh (not the 10 like in the Ihya') practices relating to the beard] is its deficiency [nuqsan] and excess [ziyada]. That is to say [the excess is], to exceed the lateral hairs [growing out] of the temple [bones] from the hair of the head until it goes beyond the jawbones, and that is the limit [hadd] of the beard. Or, the deficiency of the beard, is to be deficient [by omitting, not letting it grow, or trimming it] from the jawbones to halfway up the cheeks, and that is similar to (the hukm of exceeding the beard)." [al-Makki, Qut al-Qulub, 3:357].

So it should be clear to us by now that the words of al-Makki's Qut al-Qulub have been carefully and purposely emended by al-Ghazali, and in the edited version (which we can now say, al-Ghazali's own words), al-Ghazali does not define the lateral hairs to be a part of the beard. (In particular, the absence of al-Makki's original words, wa-dhalika huwa haddu l-lihyati [and that is limit of the beard], is telling.) That is why al-Ghazali does not mention his source here (that it is from the Qut al-Qulub), and specialists on Ghazalian studies will be able to confirm that this is the usual practice in almost all of al-Ghazali's works: not to mention the source when the carefully edited portions of the source text makes subtle but crucial departures from the original author. The fact that al-Ghazali's emended discussion is now about the dislikedness of letting the 'beard' grow (not to mention the conspicuous omission of al-Makki's 'nuqsan'), should, for Shafi'is, be a clear indication that he is not talking about the 'conventional' beard (i.e., that which grows on the chin); because the alternative would mean that it will not be Makruh to trim off the beard. This is the removal of your obstacle [zawal al-mani', Amin]! Moreover, even if one wanted to push the boundaries of Arabic majaz, of al-Nakha'i's 'between two beards' to include the lateral hairs as a part of the beard, then one must remember that this still does not amount to a legal definition [hadd] of lihya, for neither the Ihya' nor the Qut are works of fiqh. In fact, rhetorical and figurative devices (found aplenty in works like the Ihya') are not a normal feature of fiqhi literature. Rather, fiqhi works are supposed to be 'sober' and 'dry' so that it should be crystal clear in order to leave no room for confusion, since the 'minimum' legal rulings are what are sought for from these works, as any beginner students of Fiqh who are familiar with the Mawdu' [subject-matter] of 'ilm fiqh, knows that it concerns "the actions of the Mukallaf [legally responsible person] in which the [five] legal rulings are presented to them." Failing that, we have the shuruh [commentaries] and the hawashi [super-commentaries] to shed light upon anything that seems unclear in the matn [main text]. (We can already see that the style of al-Ghazali's works on 'proper' fiqh like the Wajiz and Wasit differs considerably from the style of the Ihya' and his other popular works.)

In the fiqhi literature, we find for example, Sayyid al-Bakri confirming that al-Ghazali followed the majority [Jumhur; Shafi'i] opinion, in that it is Makruh to shave or trim the beard. [I'anat, 2:386]. (Al-Ghazali's two surviving works on fiqh, the Wajiz and Wasit, the Short and Middle Abridgement of his teacher's massive commentary on the Mukhtasar of Imam al-Muzani, al-Juwayni's Nihaya al-Matlab, do not have a discussion on the beard; his Longest Abridgement, the Basit, is not extant in full and as far as we know today, only fragments of this work survives in manuscript form--and it is in the interest of Shafi'i scholars worldwide to seek out this lost treasure! His shortest work on fiqh, the Khulasa (al-Ghazali's own abridgement on al-Muzani's al-Mukhtasar), which fortunately survives, but unfortunately, the 100 folios of handwritten manuscript remains unedited in the Sulaymaniyya Library at Istanbul (MS Sulaimaniye 442; for which the author has a copy of it), too, does not discuss the beard. As for his earliest 'work(s)' on fiqh, the Ta'liqa fi Furu' al-Fiqh al-Shafi'i - which is lost - was never published by him.)

Furthermore, unlike the khilaf whether it is Makruh or Haram to shave the beard in the first place, there is no khilaf in our school regarding the definition of the beard that includes other than 'what grows on the chin'; otherwise we will have to find in places where the hukm of trimming the beard is discussed (either in Bab 'Aqiqa or Siwak), a qualification saying that the lihya also includes the 'aridan (for which there is no such precedent). Imam al-Ramli's unequivocal fatwa above is the standard qawl used by any Shafi'i teachers to dispel the notion that the lateral hairs are a part of the beard. So with all due respect to your Shafi'i teachers, their objections to Habib 'Ali's statement that "there is no karaha in shaving everything else [other than what grows on the chin]", is either:

(a) with the hukm of Makruh or dislikedness for shaving the beard itself, or

(b) with the definition of a beard that includes other than what grows on the chin.

If it is with the latter, then their objection has to be off the mark, since that understanding of the beard, as such, is alien to our school, and if they were teaching the Fath al-Mu'in, for example, they would surely know this fact. If it is with the former, then your teachers are following the Qawl Marjuh or the alternative position (in fact, strictly speaking, it is the Qawl Da'if or the Weak Position) of the school in saying that it is Haram to shave the beard (which only a minority of Shafi'i jurists adopted this position such as, the most cited one was Qadi al-Halimi above; and even with this stricter hukm, it is only what grows on the chin). (Normally, one is not allowed to follow the weak position, except if it is for personal practice [li-'amal nafsih], and if it is not for taking rukhsa--in fact, in this case, it is leaving a rukhsa in view of adopting the more strict or 'azima position.) Despite this, the relied upon fiqhi opinion for the Shafi'is, for 'amma (public) as well as khassa (scholars), by living (such as Habib Zayn Ibn Sumayt al-Madani) as well as those recently moved-from-this-world authorities (such as, the well-known Musnid al-Waqt, Shaykh Muhammad Yasin al-Fadani al-Makki) is still that it is Makruh (all four Tawa'if of the school, al-Nawawi and al-Rafi'i, Ibn Hajar and al-Ramli, including Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari, concur on this hukm)--and if someone wants to follow the qawl and position which says that it is Haram to shave, then yes by all means please do so, but know that that person is following the 'alternative position', and one must not, therefore, censure others for following the well-accepted position of the school. Furthermore, that when one does that, one is intending to follow the stricter position, and doing so out of Wara' and doing what is better (and better still to keep to oneself), but, the minimum fiqhi position for 'amal and ta'lim, for practice and instruction, is still, as far as the Shafi'is are concerned, that I'fa' wa Tawfir al-Lihya [leaving or keeping the beard] is Sunna or recommended, not Wajib, while Halq al-Lihya [shaving or removing the beard] is Makruh, not Haram. The fiqh ruling is always easy, the difficulty is always with its adab; fiqhi works and judgements are always dry save with its close companion, Tasawwuf. It could be, therefore, that one may be conflating the minimum ruling (its fiqhi ruling) with the optimal ruling (its adab/tasawwuf judgement).

In the case that your teachers have raised those objections, then it would only be appropriate for us as students to think the best of our teachers in return (and hasten to remember the service they have rendered to us - no matter how small - and the big debt we will owe them in the hereafter), and to assume (without asking them) that they are in fact taking the way of caution that is beyond the fiqhi ruling; after that, if any conflicting issues remain, then as students, it is only right that we make ta'wil and interpret their confusing statements in order to do what students are expected to do in this situation, to prevent mukhalafa al-qulub (between the student and teacher)--doing all of this on account of acknowledging our ignorance, iftiqar and weakness on our part, and our inability to understand the wisdom behind what they were saying.

To sum up, yes, for us, legally, "the beard is only that which grows on the chin and so there is no karaha in shaving everything else." It is well-known that the Shafi'is hold the most lenient position concerning the beard. Dhaqan or what grows on the chin is the real or 'legal' beard, while what grows on the 'aridan or lateral hairs is the pseudo-beard. (That explains why the pseudo-beard is to be treated like the lihya during the wudu', despite the fact that they are, legally, two different things.) The fiqhi ruling that it being Makruh to remove in any way, applies only to what is the legal minimum, namely, the lihya and not to any of the 'arid.

On this note, I think it appropriate that we end with the following wisdom of our 'ulama al-'amilin:

rahmatu l-ummati fi ikhtilafi l-a'immati [The Umma's mercy is in the khilaf of the Imams].

May this be of benefit, wallahu wa-rasulu ahkam bi-s-sawab!

Your weak brother,

Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti ©
Oxford
16 Rabi' II 1424
17 VI 2003

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